The Christmas bustle has begun. And it begins to catch up with us in the busyness of life. Our focus is slowly starting to set itself on a new course of activities. And sometimes it’s a welcome distraction after a busy, tough year. The activities, in all honesty, spur in me a bridled anticipation and excitement. Weeks, and soon to be days, are engulfed in gift lists, who will host, what will you cook, what decorations will you pull out the bag, the old traditions to pull out the bag, that Pinterest board come to life, my tree, his nativity plays, those carols. ’Tis the season to be jolly. Or is it?
All wrapped up and everywhere to go
The season will move swiftly in and then begin to make itself at home, losing its honeymoon vigour, all its airs and graces as it slumps itself down on the couch of your holiday.
Sweaty, smelly and plain demanding.
The last-minute crackers. The gift you received you didn’t want to have to reciprocate. The year’s bonus carried away with the stampeding buffalo. The family dynamic that hasn’t changed. The failed Pinterest board. The awkward work Christmas party, emerging much the same ordinary person before it all began, The meal you laboured over for hours gobbled down in 10 minutes. The gift your child threw down in disgust. The lost intentions to spoil your spouse, or be spoilt…
Maybe, ’tis more the season to be disappointed?
It’s a funny thing we do with Christmas, it’s the one time of year we pull ourselves together. We put on a good show and expect all the year’s baggage to be swept aside. Everyone should be on their best behaviour.
We are all wrapped up and have everywhere to go.
We wrap ourselves in bright foil wrapping, spicing our lives with a bow, only to realise that as the Christmas season is opened, you, your kids, your mom, your spouse – we are still squared, empty boxes on the inside.
And so, the season is more often than not a great disappointment, because for a season we believe our lives are shiny and tied up. But actually our lives remain ordinary, brown, broken, marked with a stamp saying fragile and often very empty. We are all the same hard-hearted, broken people we have been all year.
Wrapping ourselves up for Christmas doesn’t change that.
So, this year, let’s not wrap ourselves up and everybody around us. Rather, let’s unwrap the real you this Christmas, and confront your ordinary, brown, four-squared lives. And discover that perhaps, as you see you for all that you are, there may still remain a season to be jolly despite the real you.
For starters, who are you?
I don’t know about you, but I love starters. I am much more a savoury fan, than a sweet, and I am also not a second marshmallow lady.
I wonder if you have heard about the second marsh mellow test. The test that gives small children one marshmallow and then promises that if they wait, when the adult returns they can have a second marshmallow. It’s the test for instant gratification. Kids lick, eyeball and some even ignore the treat all together.
Well, I am not a second marshmallow lady. I fall asleep often with my clothes on, I leave the toothpaste lid off, I don’t hang towels back up. My focus is more than often on the next most immediate need. And then combine a savoury lover, with a hungry, terrible second marshmallow nature and you have a recipe for disaster.
You know when they come with the bread. Warm, steaming, wrapped in a napkin, I believe 3 slices will be fine. But even before the bread arrives my appetite is already bubbling over, so I am adamant that I have to have a starter.
I whole-heartedly believe that I can eat the 3 slices of bread, the starter I ordered, mains and dessert.
And you’ve guessed it.
You can see my husband, gazing at my scoffing, with the quiet suggestion of restraint in his eye, saying, “Wait for supper.”
The main course arrives, and I’m stuffed.
Now, most of us believe we are second marshmallow ladies. We all believe we are sincerely self-controlled, great at waiting, holding back. I would definitely wait, you probably say to yourself.
You may win the second marshmallow test, but when it comes to life, we definitely fail to conquer what’s constantly in front of us.
You and I are nibblers, nibblers who are stuffed to the brim.
John Piper says in his book Hunger for God:
“It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no more room for the great”
At Christmas we are stuffed to the brim, nibbling on gifts, to-do lists, holidays plans, decorations, making sure we get those Uncle Paul tickets or Carols at Kirstenbosch, shopping, and more last-minute shopping, that extra cream, the crackers, the mint sauce. Oh yes, and best add church for good measure. Shew!
For starters, unwrapping the real you means owning how much you are a nibbler, recognise that by the time Christmas comes, you are stuffed with so many distractions, that you have very little room for Jesus. Don’t wrap yourself in goodness or pretence, believing that sincerity is enough.
Don’t pretend or excuse yourself
And then also be careful not to feed yourself with excuses like, “God knows it’s a busy time”, “I’m not doing anything wrong, these are all good things”, “Hey, it’s Christmas!” Don’t excuse yourself from your behaviour.
You’re not a turkey who has been stuffed, and can be easily emptied out. Once you’re full, you can never redo that meal again.
Don’t allow another year to go by, looking back at how much you stuffed into your Christmas season, painfully wishing you had feasted more on God.
For starters, own who you really are. All wrapped up? Or all stuffed up?
Our next blog in this series– Danger: It’s Christmas – Christmas 2018
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